Data centre revolution

Green data centre strategies may mean a reduction in power consumption, and a smaller data centre footprint but many Middle Eastern companies are overlooking ‘green’ when it comes to building or refurbishing their data centres

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Data centre revolution Kathrin Winkler from EMC says that a data centre approach combining financial and environmental responsibility is perfectly possible.
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By  Piers Ford Published  May 15, 2012

Green data centre strategies may mean a reduction in power consumption, and a smaller data centre footprint but many Middle Eastern companies are overlooking ‘green’ when it comes to building or refurbishing their data centres, writes Piers Ford.

The case for greener data centres has moved way beyond the quest to reduce power consumption in an environment of fluctuating supply. The efficiency benefits and cost-effectiveness of advanced technologies such as virtualisation and cloud computing have helped to highlight the fact that in a world of escalating data traffic, the data centre itself can actually be a vehicle for increasing revenues through cost-savings – if it is managed proactively.

However, while the need for the efficient management of ‘big data’ is driving the build-up of data centres across the Middle East, there are still signs that green and sustainability issues are being overlooked as drivers when it comes to construction and implementation.

Tariff Consultancy expects Middle Eastern data centres to grow by 40% in terms of floor space and revenues by 2017. Oracle’s recent Next Generation Data Centre Index (NGDI) report suggested that over one third of Middle Eastern businesses believe they need to build a new data centre in the next five years, while 31% said they will need one within two years.

One fifth of businesses in the region said virtualisation has already helped them to better hardware utilisation, and 42% believe consolidation has had a positive impact on their data centres. But a surprising 68% do not know the energy usage of their data centre environment.

“A green data centre strategy is not just about managing power consumption,” says Marc Heger, senior director – hardware, at Oracle MENA. “It ensures Middle East organisations are able to accommodate and manage growing amounts of data, while remaining compliant with regional legislation regarding sustainability. As a result, green data centre strategies allow organisations to increase revenues by managing more data while reducing space, which is simply an opportunity they cannot afford to miss.

“As data centres across the Middle East grow in scope and power, their energy and power consumption has also increased. However, to achieve sustainability and green data centres, Middle East organisations need to ensure their IT teams are monitoring server and storage utilisation and considering ways to raise utilisation levels so that IT hardware does not sit idle, while consuming power and driving up ventilation and cooling costs.”

Lagging behind

The region is, however, proving slow to rise to the challenge, and lags behind initiatives like the European Union’s Emission Trading Scheme, which has focused attention on the monitoring and reporting of CO2 emissions.

“Some of the leading countries in the Middle East are pressing on with deploying green initiatives,” says Sufian Dweik, regional manager, MENA at data centre specialist Brocade Communications. “For example, a long-term national initiative to build a green economy under the theme, ‘A green economy for sustainable development’ was recently launched in Dubai.

This shows the direction in the UAW. GCC countries are also pushing for these initiatives. But we still have a lot of work ahead to bring awareness to the region to see the benefits in going green. The Middle East needs to seriously consider implementing regulations like in Europe.”

Dweik says the Dubai Carbon Centre of Excellence is another move in the right direction. He does not think that a focus on managing power consumption will necessarily detract from an organisation’s ability to build data centres economically.

“The two are not mutually exclusive objectives,” he says. “One is a means to achieving the other. According to research across EMEA by Brocade, senior IT decision makers acknowledge that energy efficiency is a key issue in their organisations, believing that their companies spend a significant portion of their overall operations expenditures on energy.

“So obviously, the region has begun to realise the importance of controlling power consumption in order to not only make the data centre greener but also to reduce operational expenditure,” Dweik adds.

Virtualisation

Vendors like Oracle, Cisco, Brocade and EMC advocate various approaches to server, storage and application consolidation, most of which are based on a high degree of virtualisation and offer a significant reduction in the size of the data centre footprint as an incentive.

“Virtualisation has a very important role to play in greening the data centre,” says Dweik.

“It facilitates higher utilisation rates, which means greater return from less IT infrastructure and reduced energy consumption. It also frees up server and storage devices which can then be redeployed in areas where additional capacity is required, thus preventing the need for additional hardware purchases. Excess devices can be decommissioned, thereby reducing the volume of hardware that needs to be powered, maintained and cooled,” he adds.

Kathrin Winkler, chief sustainability officer at data storage specialist EMC, agrees that an approach combining financial and environmental responsibility is perfectly possible and says that as long as these twin objectives are aligned, it probably isn’t too critical which one is the primary motivator.

Energy consumption is as important a consideration as virtualisation when it comes to building a more resource-efficient data centre.  And cloud computing is rapidly emerging as a means of making the best use of more economical hardware strategies.
“The most obvious approach to ‘greening’ the data centre is to reduce wasted energy through inefficient power and cooling,” she says.

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